Family vacations are an excellent time to reconnect. As kids blossom into teenagers, they want their independence and tend to spend more time participating in extracurricular activities, hanging out with friends, at sporting events or working. At times your home may feel like a group of people living under the same roof without a lot of interaction. As kids grow older, family time is more difficult to juggle with busier schedules and multiple priorities.
With technology taking over our lives, it is important to find time as a family to communicate and make memories and most of all, unplug from cells phones and social media. Planning a trip away from normal day-to-day routines and deadlines can be the key to renewing family relationships. Getting teens involved in planning can help get them excited to get away and experience new things.
Vacations don’t have to be costly or extravagant. Spending time in a different environment can often open up opportunities for bonding that don’t exist under normal circumstances.
A family vacation gives you an opportunity to experiment, try new things and provide educational value for the whole family — whether it’s a vacation spent volunteering or trying out a zip-lining together for the first time. Below are some tips to consider when planning your family vacation.
• Accommodations: When looking for accommodations try and find a place that gives your teen a little space of their own. Younger children thrive in the “togetherness” but teens need to escape and relax a bit in their own space. Consider renting a condo or beach house for a week rather than a hotel. Oftentimes, weekly rental are less expensive than a hotel and you can enjoy cooking together as a family. There is often more space to spread out.
• Entertainment: When you have both younger children and teens, family vacations can be a bit more challenging. Look for destinations that can provide entertainment for the entire family. Younger children are easier to keep busy while teens need more freedom and they also like knowing what’s going on at all times. Include them when putting together the itinerary so they have some ownership and know what’s expected of them.
• Electronics: When traveling, computer games or movies can help pass the time. Allow your teen time with their electronics to keep the peace, but request that they have some downtime from their phones and iPads, as well. Post family pics on Instagram to share your experience with friends and family.
• Volunteer: Giving back is a great way to spend a family vacation. There are many opportunities to volunteer nationally and internationally. Making a difference in the world around you can be incredibly meaningful to parents and teens. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and help build a home for a family. If you have the means to travel internationally, there are eco-friendly opportunities to save the sea turtles, dig for dinosaur bones, be a nursing assistant at a children’s clinic or teach kids to read or to do math.
• Adventure: Plan a vacation that includes things you’ve never done before. Hike to the top of a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado, go deep sea fishing, go downhill skiing, learn to surf or go roller blading on the boardwalk. It’s not what you do that matters, it’s sharing a new experience together that helps a family to bond.
• Hobbies: Include family hobbies in vacation plans. Photography is an excellent way to share your experiences. Plan your trip around sites you’d like to photograph. Whether you love the outdoors or architecture or just capturing candid shots, photography can be a part of any family excursion. Teach your teen to make pottery or make a quilt, to pass on family heritage. Choose an activity that promotes conversation and share family stories. Most of all, have fun!
• Historical: Knowledge makes us more interesting. Pass along the gift of learning with your teens and plan a vacation around an interesting city or event. Our nation is steeped in history. Consider a trip to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia or New York. Visit the Smithsonian, the Liberty Bell or Broadway. Metro areas have tons of cultural actives to enjoy, from jazz in the park to experiencing new foods. Make it fun and interesting to help them engage in the experience.
• Cruise: If you really want to unplug from reality and get away. Take a cruise with your teens. Allow them to experience something entirely new. Swim with the dolphins, whale watch, ride the zip-line or snorkel with sea turtles. Create experiences that can’t be replicated at home. There are plenty of activities on-board for the entire family to enjoy.
• Camping: Whether your family likes to rough it in a tent or rent a cabin in the woods. Getting back to nature can open up opportunities for family bonding. Go for a hike, catch fish for dinner, make s’mores and tell ghost stories around the fire.
Time is short, parents need to create time to get away with the entire family and keep those family relationships energized, engaged and exciting. Family vacations are an excellent tool to facilitate that. Sharing experiences together build strong bonds, builds self-confidence and creates an atmosphere conducive of letting your guard down. Take advantage of these times, document them, and treasure the memories you make together.